Advertisement. Click on the ad for more information.
Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Science Fiction

Mighty Jack

Mighty Jack and the Goblin KingWe are thrust into the midst of the action, which nev­er stops until the epi­logue. This is how Ben Hatke tells a sto­ry.

We don’t know what’s going on. There’s no set­up. Instead, we quick­ly learn that Jack is climb­ing some veg­e­ta­tive mat­ter to find the ogre who kid­napped his sis­ter Mad­dy and take her home. His friend, Lil­ly, no side­kick, is climb­ing along­side him.

The vil­lains of the piece are rats, giants, and that ogre. They have con­trol of a nexus point that exists out­side of time and space, a con­nect­ing link between worlds. It looks like the tow­er of a cas­tle built on an aster­oid. The place has lost its lus­ter because of the giants’ nefar­i­ous choic­es, among them the need to feed a human child to the machine that blocks the bridges between worlds. It’s sat­is­fy­ing to dis­cov­er these plot points through­out the sto­ry.

Jack and Lil­ly are split up when Lil­ly falls from the vine (a rat is respon­si­ble). Jack vows to come back for her but he is com­pelled to find Mad­dy.

This is not earth,” illus­tra­tion from Jack and the Mighty Gob­lin King by Ben Hatke

The adven­ture takes off in two direc­tions. Lil­ly is seri­ous­ly hurt by the rats … and saved by the gob­lins who inhab­it the low­er reach­es of the nexus point. The Gob­lin King demands that Lil­ly will be his bride. She has oth­er ideas. In the “trash from all worlds,” she finds a Shel­by Mus­tang. She will find a way to take it with her. Lil­ly is a hero in the truest sense of the word.

The gob­lins are the most endear­ing char­ac­ters in the book. They are fun­ny, resource­ful, knowl­edge­able, and they care for Lil­ly. Their lan­guage is not exact­ly Eng­lish and it suits them. Now we know how gob­lins com­mu­ni­cate.

There are unan­swered ques­tions. Why can’t Mad­dy talk? Where did the mag­ic seeds come from that give Jack and Lil­ly short bursts of need­ed pow­er? Why is Jack’s mother’s house being fore­closed? These are the intrigu­ing bits that encour­age the read­er to fill in the sto­ry, becom­ing one with the sto­ry­teller.

Hatke’s art­work is so much a part of the sto­ry that the book couldn’t be read out loud with­out show­ing the frames of the graph­ic nov­el. His brain cre­ates exot­ic set­tings that invite lin­ger­ing to absorb their odd­ness. His vil­lains are das­tard­ly, fear­some, invit­ing us to defeat them. The gob­lins are oth­er-world­ly but a lit­tle cud­dly. (Just a lit­tle.) The col­or palette is spacey where appro­pri­ate,  con­vinc­ing­ly sub­ter­ranean when we’re in the goblin’s habi­tat, and quite rich­ly appeal­ing when the veg­e­ta­tion trans­forms. And that Shel­by Mus­tang!

The book is filled with sur­pris­es. A turn of the page often brings an unex­pect­ed turn of events. Even the epi­logue, often used to wrap up a sto­ry and tell us about the future, leaves us with a  sense of urgency: what will hap­pen next?

There is a first book, Mighty Jack, which I have not read. It most like­ly cre­ates the world in which Lil­ly, Jack, Mad­dy, and Phe­lix the drag­on (!) live, but I’m very glad that a read­er doesn’t have to first read that book to enjoy this one. I always hat­ed going to my cousin Sig’s house, read­ing his com­ic books, nev­er know­ing where the sto­ries were com­ing from or how they would end because they were pub­lished episod­i­cal­ly. 

This is sto­ry­telling at its very best. Appeal­ing, fun, hold-your-breath sto­ry­telling. I could have revealed that this is a re-telling of the Jack and the Beanstalk sto­ry but it is so much more than that. Ben Hatke’s pow­ers enchant his read­ers once again.

(Please be advised that this might have a PG13 rat­ing because of some vio­lence and one swear word. You’ll know best if this fits for your fam­i­ly.)

Mighty Jack and the Gob­lin King
a graph­ic nov­el by Ben Hatke
col­or by Alex Camp­bell and Hilary Sycamore
pub­lished by First Sec­ond, 2017
ISBN 978−1−6267−226−68

Read more...

Outer Space Ambassador

alarm clockby Vic­ki Palmquist

Every once in a while I come across a book that wakes up that breath­less, eager, sense-of-won­der-at-every­thing-new feel­ing I had about read­ing as a child. I admit it, after 3,000 or so books the plots and char­ac­ters and res­o­lu­tions can feel sim­i­lar to some­thing I’ve read before.

Well, I joy­ful­ly read a book that hit all the right notes and trans­port­ed me back to a bed­time read­ing expe­ri­ence where I couldn’t turn off the light, fell asleep, and then woke up in the morn­ing to fin­ish the book before my feet hit the floor.

AmbassadorAmbas­sador by William Alexan­der is just that good.

I’ve enjoyed sci­ence fic­tion since my sixth grade teacher read aloud A Wrin­kle in Time. Our entire class­room tried hard to tesser­act. Thank you, Mr. Rausch! Then our librar­i­an helped me find Eleanor Cameron’s Mush­room Plan­et books. There wasn’t much else in that genre for a sixth grade read­er so I moved on to fan­ta­sy … but today’s read­ers have a wider vari­ety of choic­es.

Will Alexan­der does what all good hero­ic jour­ney authors do. He starts us in a com­fort­able, right-at-home set­ting and then takes us to places unimag­in­able. Gabriel San­dro Fuentes, who recent­ly got into trou­ble for let­ting his friend Frankie set off a rock­et, is select­ed to be the next Ambas­sador from Earth to The Embassy, where sen­tient beings from all over the uni­verse gath­er for diplo­ma­cy. When the Envoy arrives, he tells Gabriel of his new respon­si­bil­i­ty. He should also give Gabe point­ers on how to trav­el through his dreams to reach the Embassy and what to do when he gets there. But some­one is try­ing to kill Gabe and the Envoy is busy defend­ing him … by cre­at­ing a black hole in the Fuentes’ dry­er. A small one.

Alexan­der plants clues through­out the book. When Gabe and Frankie argue over who has more pow­er, Zor­ro or Bat­man, the author is neat­ly set­ting up the theme in the book. I espe­cial­ly loved Gabe’s fas­ci­nat­ing, intre­pid, mul­ti-tal­ent­ed, and present par­ents … up until Gabe’s father faces depor­ta­tion. Alexander’s fresh descrip­tions, per­cep­tions, and actions keep the read­er upright, expec­tant, slight­ly ner­vous, and look­ing for­ward to turn­ing the page.

This is the per­fect book for most read­ers whether they have expe­ri­enced sci­ence fic­tion or not. It’s first and fore­most a rock­et-fueled sto­ry with intrigue, humor, and a very like­able hero. Read it!

 

Read more...
bk_fourteenthgoldfish_140

The Fourteenth Goldfish

The ver­sa­tile Jen­nifer L. Holm pens a fan­ta­sy this time around, but it’s a sto­ry suf­fused with humor and sci­ence, deft­ly ask­ing a mind-blow­ing ques­tion: is it a good thing to grow old? So what hap­pens when a 13-year-old boy shows up on your doorstep, argu­ing with your mom, who invites him in, and it […]

Read more...
Planet Kindergarten

Planet Kindergarten

Books about get­ting ready for kinder­garten and the first day in that Strange New Land are plen­ti­ful, but I can’t recall one that has drawn me into the expe­ri­ence as ful­ly as Plan­et Kinder­garten does. Every aspect of this book, from word choice to sto­ry to the detailed and clever draw­ings, puts this book at […]

Read more...
Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke can’t con­ceive of, write, and draw these sto­ries fast enough for me—and a host of oth­er fans. Just released, this book fol­lows Zita the Space­girl (2010) and Leg­ends of Zita the Space­girl (2012). Doing the math, I know I won’t be read­ing the next install­ment until 2016. Whah­hh. I’ve read so many sto­ries […]

Read more...
bk_spacetaxi_140.jpg

Space Taxi

Space Taxi: Archie Takes Flight Wendy Mass and Michael Braw­er, illus by Elise Grav­el Lit­tle, Brown Books for Young Read­ers What a hoot! When eight-year-old Archie Morn­ingstar gets up ear­ly in the morn­ing for his first Take Your Kid to Work Day, he nev­er imag­ines that his taxi-dri­v­ing dad in their rick­ety cab is actu­al­ly […]

Read more...
bk_owl1.jpg

Aliens and Nature

My thanks to Kather­ine House, who sent word that illus­tra­tor John Schoen­herr passed away on April 8th at the age of 74. I have admired his work in two fields for many years—I am sad­dened by the loss of this prodi­gious and pio­neer­ing tal­ent. Born in 1935, Mr. Schoen­herr (he was known as Jack) grew […]

Read more...